Our View: Triple Crown worth fighting for

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City, county and business leaders here have an opportunity. We hope they don't squander it.

Triple Crown Sports is searching for land in the region to build a complex for amateur sports tournaments.

The Fort Collins-based company's contract with the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association expires in 2007. Triple Crown officials have made it clear they want to stay in Northwest Colorado. But Steamboat fields are outdated and no longer meet the company's needs, officials have said.

That puts Steamboat, Hayden and Craig in the running for the complex that would attract thousands of visitors to the region each summer.

Steamboat and Hayden officials say they already have land designated should their cities be chosen for the complex.

Craig officials say they have been unable to find enough land to accommodate the 16 to 24 fields Triple Crown needs for the sports complex. Such a complex would require about 120 acres.

Moffat County officials say that it's unlikely they would be able to find the land needed for the complex. There's also the issue of putting up the millions of dollars needed to build the facility.

Cost estimates to build a single field in the complex range from $150,000 to $450,000, depending on water availability to the land and the work necessary to develop the parcel. There's also the issue of Craig not having enough hotel rooms.

Although those issues are obstacles, they aren't insurmountable. At the least, Craig officials should team up with Hayden officials to find the funds to build the complex. If Hayden gets the complex, Craig is in a better position to get the overflow of visitors that would visit the region during the nine weekends of summer tournaments.

Triple Crown hasn't approached Moffat County commissioners about working on a facility, but Commissioner Darryl Steele said it isn't likely the county would put up the money for new baseball fields.

Commissioners recently voted to close a recreational facility --hadow Mountain Clubhouse -- because of budget constraints.

"We certainly are not going to jump out and make another ballpark," Steele said.

We don't think the two facilities are close to being comparable. It takes about $90,000 a year to keep the Shadow Mountain Clubhouse open. The facility generates about $20,000 in revenue, which means it costs the county about $70,000 to operate.

We think Moffat County officials should focus on the potential return on investment if it worked with Hayden to attract the Triple Crown complex.

Unlike other small communities that take gambles to entice development, Craig and Hayden are in a position to understand the risks and potential gains of the project. Triple Crown isn't some hazy pipe dream. The Triple Crown tournaments pump about $10 million into Steamboat's economy each year, according to reports.

We think Moffat County officials should look long and hard at a project that could benefit an economy heavily dependent on the fall hunting season.

Attracting development to rural communities isn't easy. But that's no reason not to try.

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